Jojo Taylor: Go Thee Rhino and Make your Dreams Come True
Whenever I feel like giving up, I take a look at a piece of photocopied paper, with a picture of a rhino on it and these words: ‘Go Thee rhino and make you’re dreams come true.’ I do not know which book it comes from, I simply found it attached to my wall on my first day in an art studio that I used to rent. It really resonated with me because at that particular point in my life I had just left my career as a Youth and Community Worker in order to be an artist. I didn’t want to do my plan B full time anymore, as much as I loved it, I needed to concentrate on me and my plan A again. I have kept the piece of paper ever since and take it to my new studios to remind me that I need to pursue my dreams and that is ok!
When I re-started my art career I didn’t realise how difficult it would be to return to it. And despite all the rejections you get as an artist you develop thick skin just like the rhino. I have been a practising artist for several years now. In my pursuance of artistic improvement, I decided to apply to do a Masters Degree. I had no idea how I was going to fund it, but the time felt absolutely right. I needed a fresh perspective and some professional feedback and critiques. I was successful at gaining a place at Central Saint Martins and thankfully was awarded The South Square Trust Scholarship. I had the most wonderful time studying there. I learnt some key things about myself and my work and that coming out of my comfort zone was essential for my progression. I also learnt that it is ok that I do not always know exactly what I am doing-experimentation is a good thing and from it can come exciting results and collaborations.
When people learn that I am an artist one of the most common questions is ‘oh what do you paint?’ Followed by ‘it must be so lovely sitting and relaxing in your studio all day’. I too have asked people questions regarding their jobs that I know little about so I am not intending to offend anyone here, however, my art practice is often not the vision in their head. When I reply I don’t paint these days, I am sometimes asked, ‘well what do you do then?’ My weeks vary, recently I was filming lighthouses, interviewing someone about chronic eczema, devising short performances and then I was playing horses teeth and singing down a teapot in a recording studio. Last week I filmed my friend in her care home, am writing songs, am meeting a choreographer regarding a routine and planning for my Berlin film shoot. But there are days when no art is produced at all. I have funding applications to fill out, art opportunities to find then apply for, galleries to visit, meetings to have. I am a member of two crit groups and I need to be able to be good at self motivation, self management, time management and promotion in the form of websites and social media and undertaking interviews. And then there is the self employment aspect-where I need to earn a living and fill out my accounts. There is no notion of working 9 to 5 in my life and all days are work days.
When I explain what I do and the mediums I use, I often get a blank stare. But not to be discouraged, I take a moment to remember that I am doing this for me. I gave up a lot to pursue art and I make what I feel I need to make in a way that I deem necessary. Not in a selfish way but in a self connected way. And that is how it needs to be. When I am making work for someone else, I make what they want in the way they want. When I am collaborating I am considering the whole team and when I am making for me, I do just that; no apologies. There are different strands to what I do and different ways to adapt, depending on what the goal and process is and depending if there is just me or a team.
Would I have started this art malarkey if I had known how long it would take? Would I have begun if I knew it may never happen? But what is the ‘it?’ Is it making work you are proud of? Making money? Gaining a wider audience? Having exhibitions in prestigious venues? The ‘it’ varies from artist to artist, but I believe it is related to or involves some form of recognition. And I suspect that all artists in pursuing their ‘it’, make sacrifices to achieve their goals. And it is a good job we do as I think we would all find the world a much duller place without art, in its many forms.
I never quite know if I chose art or it chose me, but here we are: Together, neck deep in joy, frustration, impatience, wonder and a whole heap of emotions as I go through the process of making and all that this entails. I am determined to enjoy as much of this process as possible, so I like to bring joy and humour into my making at times, as I know that the process is possibly all I will have. I might never achieve all of my ‘its’ so I make sure that I enjoy the actuality of making as much as possible.
I have a lot of projects on the go at the same time and prioritising them is important for managing them efficiently. I thought that I prioritised well, but since my friend told me a story about choosing my ‘rocks’ I really put more effort into it and this causes me much less frustration. It makes me identify my priorities and time manage more effectively. And just incase you are not familiar with the principle of the rock story, here’s a link.
So…the rhino encourages me to carry on- on those occasions when I question what I am doing and the big rocks help me work out how best to achieve my ‘its’.
Jojo Taylor is one of the recipients of the 2018 Lifeboat Residency. Lifeboat is a year-long studio residency, peer mentoring and career development award for MA postgraduates from University of the Arts London. The artists selected for the 2018 award are Sabrina Fuller, Davide Meneghello, and Mētra Saberova. The residency is funded by ArtsTemps and supported by ACAVA.